Zoe Cunningham is delighted when her widowed mother remarries, particularly as her new stepfather is amiable, generous, and the owner of a villa in Nice. Enchanted visits come to an abrupt end when an entirely unexpected tragedy ensues. This in turn is followed by a bewildering decline in which both Zoe and Anne, her mother, are trapped.
Surrounded by strangers, however well-meaning, both yearn for home, although that home appears ever more remote. They are forced to learn how and how not, to trust appearances. A benign outcome, so often read about in the fairy stories of childhood, may in fact be possible, but only if one is willing to shed the illusions that those same stories did so much to encourage.